AS the city prepares to undergo a €15 million tourism upgrade, there is increasing concern over the condition of one of the city’s oldest architectural features, which is situated along the route of the so-called ‘Medieval Mile’.
The steps and arch leading from Irishtown up to St Canice’s Cathedral have subsided considerably in recent years and now feature large cracks and fissures in the stonework and cement patching.
The steps, an instantly-recognisable feature of the oldest part of the city, have been there since 1614, when they were built by Robert Wale. They are constructed from locally-quarried cut limestone.
But local residents have a growing sense of concern over the state of the arch and steps.
Johnny Cleary, from nearby Connolly Street, passes under the arch and down the steps everyday – and he says their condition has degraded considerably, even recently. Our recent cold winters have caused some chipping and erosion within the stone joins, and the cement patching – carried out around five months ago – seems to be largely ineffective.
“It’s starting to tumble,” says Mr Cleary.
“It’s certainly after getting worse. Something needs to be done about this soon – it’s a disgrace; one of our oldest buildings.”
Mr Cleary points to large cracks along the arch, which he says have worsened in the last four months alone. He also has concerns over the safety of the steps, due to stones apparently loosening along the top of one side, breaking free from rudimentary cement patching.
“The patching was a complete waste of time and money, it did nothing to solve the problem,” he says.
The stone hinges on either side of the arch, which originally would have held a thick oak door, are roughly a foot lower on one side than the other, having intially been parallel.
The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) has the steps listed as a feature of ‘special interest’ for both their architectural and archaeological value. The NIAH entry describes the steps as being “imbued with a picturesque aesthetic quality lacking in modern street furniture.”
But while numerous projects have been proposed and flagged for the Medieval Mile project, a conservation plan for this historic landmark is not one of them. Mayor Sean O’ hArgain, who is a member of the City Walls Steering Committee, has said that if the area is shown to be in danger of falling badly into disrepair, its preservation would have to be ensured.
“It is of crucial importance that any feature of such historic importance would be conserved,” he said.